On a cold night in Trenton nearly a dozen years ago, a sellout crowd watched with a mix of exuberance and reverence as an 18-year-old LeBron James scored 52 points in a win over Westchester. It was obvious to everyone in attendance that they were witnessing the beginning of something truly special.
“This court, this basketball court,” James said after the game, “is like my house.”
Sitting on the baseline underneath one of the baskets, I had a revelation of sorts. With the future of sports manifesting itself right in front of me, I vowed that I would make the absolute most of what appeared to be a golden opportunity. I had been too young to enjoy the Michael Jordan era from the very beginning, but LeBron was a gift from the basketball gods, a tailor-made chance for someone my age to get in on the ground floor.
This extended to his sneakers, as well. I didn’t start wearing Air Jordans until the VIIs in eighth grade, but I now had the ability to chronicle LeBron’s sneaker legacy from the start. Having signed a $90 million Nike contract before he was even drafted, expectations were accordingly high, and though there’s no point comparing his sneaker resume to Jordan’s — even if we attempted that anyway — LeBron definitely has some classics under his belt.
Tasked with creating a definitive ranking of LeBron’s signature Nikes, however, one encounters a quandary: It’s impossible to consider the endeavor anything but entirely subjective.
The fact is, people often have very different opinions of the same sneakers, depending on their own purposes, preferences, and personal history. As an example, while some are drawn to the simplicity and historical significance of the Air Jordan 1, others might prefer the way-before-its-time XI, awash with patent leather. Others might even favor the Flight Plate-adorned performance monsters of recent vintage — you know, if you actually play ball.
When it comes down to it, what I present here is simply one man’s list, ostensibly to celebrate the release of the “Court Vision” LeBron 12 this Saturday at Champs Sports. But at the very least, it’s a ranking curated by someone who has followed LeBron nearly from the start, wearing his sneakers every step of the way.
Today, we’re Ranking All of LeBron’s Signature Sneakers.
BUY NOW: Nike’s LeBron sneaker collection
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle
image via Nike